Rant: The High Price of Fame

Many people strive to be famous, but don’t realize what a burden it actually is.  Being in the spotlight 24/7 is mentally and physically exhausting.  The worst part is that there are few people who can truly understand your plight.  As a world famous celebrity blogger I often only have one outlet I can turn to: my readers.

To get an idea of what I’m going through, picture this: you emerge from a public restroom when all of a sudden somebody recognizes you.  “Its Julian Wickers” shouts an amazed onlooker, followed by a chorus of agreement.  All of a sudden you are bowled over by a tide of people rushing into the restroom, trying to see if they can get a “souvenir” from the stall you just vacated.

Sometimes I conveniently forget to flush, just so there is a little something (or big something) for my adoring fans.  Regardless of whether there is a chunky surprise or not, they will tear the bathroom apart.  Everyone wants to own a toilet seat that Julian Wickers sat on, or a bathroom stall door that Julian Wickers touched.  Even if one of the jackals isn’t a huge fan, he knows he can get big money for it on ebay.

Obviously I don’t want to wait around, or I’ll be stuck signing autographs for hours.  Even at $20 a pop, double for body parts, there is still a mob of devoted fans.  Sure when I leave several hours later my jeans will be stuffed to the brim with cash, but is it worth a sore wrist?  Absolutely not.

Reader Tip: I only take crisp $20 bills for autographs.  Wrinkled bills will get you sent to the back of the line.

And that is what people don’t understand.  Sure, maybe I pick up 10k in cash from an impromptu autograph signing session in the park, but it costs.  My wrist is tired, my afternoon scuttled, and who knows what kind of germs I picked up from the unwashed masses.    

Cafe Problems

Public bathrooms aren’t the only place where my fame becomes a burden.  I used to be able to sit quietly in a cafe and get work done.  Who doesn’t like to sip an expensive coffee while enjoying the quiet buzz of activity?  The problem is, as soon as I’m recognized, that “buzz” becomes a stampede.  

Everyone wants to to revel in my presence.  For some that just means extending a tentative hand to touch my jacket.  More forward fans like to shake my hand and ask for an autograph.  The most devoted sit and watch, waiting for me to leave so they can lap up any crumbs I leave behind.

Last week, after being recognized at a local cafe, a half dozen people got up and ordered “the exact same thing as Julian Wickers” (for the record, double mocha cap w/ goats milk and flax seed sprinkles).  The rest of the morning proceeded as expected: a line of well wishers and autograph seekers extended out the door and across the block.  Gone was any hope of productivity.

Coping with Too Many Fans

I’ve certainly tried to deal with this in creative ways.  After all, I am a world renowned life coach and productivity expert.  For awhile I would read with one hand while blindly signing autographs with the other.  This blew up though when a woman thought that my random scrawl read “Go back to hell you hideous harpy.”  Informing her that people would pay big money for the error did not calm her unearthly shrieks.  

One way to alleviate the burden is to charge more for autographs, but I’m not sure I can do that to society.  The book that I sign will no doubt become an instant family heirloom, solemnly worshiped and prized throughout the generations.  Who am I to deny a family that joy?  

Reader Tip: To make room on your mantle for an autographed copy of my book, put the urn with Grandmas ashes in the attic.  

Another problem with charging more for autographs: where would I put all the extra money?  These plebs aren’t walking around with 100 dollar bills, it’s all tens and twenties.  My house is already full to the brim with cash, the drawers overflowing.  I told my maid she could keep any change she found in my pockets while doing laundry, she now drives a Lamborghini.

And that  is the heavy burden I bear.  It is my duty as a guru and cultural icon to grace these wretches with my presence.  Sure a morning spent working at Starbucks is important, but in the grand scheme of things spreading my goodwill is more valuable to society.  Luckily I am able to handle my burden with grace, and humility.

Perhaps the Worst Part of Being Famous

Another tricky aspect of fame is how it varies depending on your audience.  Out in public I am a god who can ignore stop signs and take liberally from the “tips” jar, but my wife and kids treat me like a commoner.  My house is the one place where I want celebrity treatment, but instead I have to bus my dishes and scold my own servants.

Celebrity Reader Warning: If you can’t handle stories of cultural icons being forced to do manual labor by the people who should love them the most, stop reading now.  I bear no responsibility for the deep psychological damage this could cause to your award winning persona.

My fans are nice, but most of them are weirdos.  I wouldn’t ask any of them to massage my back.  When I ask my wife, the one person I want absolute adoration from, she pretends like my words aren’t coming from an angel’s mouth.  Last time I leaned over in bed and asked for a quick thirty minute full body massage she laughed, and told me that she was going to sleep.  

Not only does my wife have the nerve to ask me to do chores around the house, the other day she complained about me leaving the toilet seat up.  I thought about telling her that falling in would be a privilege that many of my fans would sell a kidney for.  That the last time I got recognized coming out of a bathroom, fans came out with soaking wet shirts and water bottles full of gritty “holy water”.

In the end, I relented, and told her that I would try to put down the seat once and awhile.  And that my dear readers, is the true cost of fame.

Minimalist Fables: The Three Little Pigs

This article is part of a series of fables I wrote to teach the values of minimalism and productivity to children.  You can read the first fable here.

One day the three not-so-little pigs, Weenie, Beanie, and Charles, left their home on the factory farm.  They were headed to the forest, where they hoped to make their way in life.  Each of the three bacon balls was looking for a quiet place to settle down and build a house, an important goal, but largely irrelevant in light of their upcoming gruesome deaths.

Make no mistake, these pudgy porkers were walking talking balloons of flesh.  Each had the gastric girth of a small car, and sauntered precariously on their stubby little hocks like a baby learning to walk.  A very fat baby.  The only undersized features of the three Gouda guzzlers were their brains, which, as will soon be clear, were very tiny indeed.

The Forest

After several hours of waddling the three little pork muffins started going their separate ways.  Weenie was the first to leave the group.  He heard a trickle in the underbrush and followed the sound to find a gently babbling brook.  Here, thought Weenie, is where I will build a house and start my new life.    

Weenie worked as hard as he ever had in his short stubby little life.  His dangerously enlarged heart was put to the test as he tirelessly gathered sticks from nearby bushes to build his house.  After ten minutes though the little sausage biscuit was out of breath, and already hungry.  He was nearly out of candy bars and realized that building a house is a lot of work.  “Screw it” he thought, “I’ll just sit here.”

Meanwhile, the other two chub-mates were still slowly ambling down the forest path, stopping every few minutes to catch their breath.  Both were exhausted, but neither wanted to show weakness to the other.  Soon Beanie saw a clearing from the trail. While investigating he walked into what turned out to be a beautiful meadow, filled with wildflowers.  Taken by its beauty, he decided to build his house there.

For seven hours Beanie slaved away to build his house.  As the sun passed by overhead the cheddar chunker slowly erected a dwelling made out of sticks, glued together by mud created from Gatorade.  At the end of the day he looked upon his creation, a pitiful hovel with the tensile strength of a spider web, and was satisfied.  He climbed in and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

Charles continued down the path until he spied a picturesque mountain ridge.  He ventured up the short incline, a task that left him close to death, and eventually reached the top.  Once there he settled into a peaceful pose, and began to meditate.  He left his perch only to venture into the nearby town for supplies, and to tell other animals how great it feels to meditate all day.

The Wolf

While the three chuckle buckets were off finding their sad, fatally misguided destiny, Alexander, the average sized and morally principled wolf, was facing hard times.  As an environmentalist and nature lover he despised eating meat, but his wolf ancestry dictated that he would die without it.  Alexander did the best he could by eating lower life forms, such as slugs, fish, and rodents, but it was never enough.  He hungered for red meat.

His inner conflict reached a head one day while he was trying to catch fish.  He had been staring into the water for hours, when he noticed his own haggard expression staring back at him.  “Who am I?” he wondered, looking at the gaunt face in his reflection.  He was about to throw himself into the stream, ending it all, when he heard the snap of twigs behind him.

Alexander turned to see Weenie, standing in the clearing behind him, munching on a snickers bar and humming a merry little ditty.  Before he could even react the pudgy porker squealed in terror, and bolted into the undergrowth.  He barreled through the forest like a truck – a very fat truck.  Now curious, Alexander decided to delay his suicide and follow the terrified pudding pop.

He did not have to go far.  In his haste the the poor porker had stumbled and fallen head first onto an old log.  A broken branch had been driven straight through his bulbous head, and protruded out the back like a bloody spear.  Somehow his lungs continued to gasp for air, each stroke followed by a veritable fountain of blood from the wound.

Alexander slowly approached the body and gave it a few sniffs.  The smell of the warm arterial blood called to him, like a song beyond time.  He yearned to bite into the warm flesh and feast on the dimwitted little pork chop.  Yet, his conscience held firm, and he resisted the urge.  Taking one last look to admire the sweet embrace of death, Alexander continued through the forest to find a suitable cliff to throw himself off of.  

It was not long until he came across a ramshackle lean-to in the middle of a meadow.  He first thought it was a poorly assembled pile of firewood, until he saw a quivering gut rising and falling beneath.  Alexander called out a short greeting, once, twice, then finally a third time before the sleeping cheddar biscuit awakened from his slumber.

Upon seeing the wolf Beanie panicked, and bolted out of his shoddy hovel.  The entire thing collapsed into a pile of sticks as he furiously waddled away from the wolf and into the forest.

Alexander observed the squealing bacon ball with casual disinterest.  Here too was another mammal he would not eat, yet was terrified of him nonetheless.  All he wanted was a friend. Too tired to kill himself, Alexander laid his head down and drifted into a dreamless sleep.

The Brothers Grimm / Rivers of Blood

The next day Alexander awoke to the delicious smell of sizzling meat.  He wiped the drool off his muzzle and followed the aroma down the forest path.  He eventually arrived at the base of a small hill.  Thinking there might be a suitable overlook to jump from, he climbed to the top.

On top of the hill he found a peculiar site.  A giant beach ball made of pink flesh was stooping over a large fire.  As Alexander got closer he could see that the living weather balloon was in fact another pig.  This chubster was slowly rotating a spit which contained what looked like a leg, from another similarly fat pig.

Upon hearing the wolf’s approach, the porker turned around and smiled nervously.  Through stammers and nervous snorts Charles explained that he had cooked his brother Beanie as a peace offering for the wolf.  “Please don’t kill me” added the terrified baconator, slowly backing away from the fire.

As Alexander approached the flames he recognized the bleeding carcass of the second pig lying in the grass, surrounded by a surprising number of stones.  The still pink flesh was covered in bruises, his skull utterly collapsed and oozing grey matter.  He realized that, in all likelihood, this second bumbling brother had been stoned to death by the third.

Meanwhile Charles was making his escape.  The little tub of lard scurried down the hillside as fast as his tiny little ham hocks could carry him.  Soon gravity took over and his attempt at running became tumbling.  Despite bouncing off rocks and careening into trees the rolling porker still gathered significant speed.

He might have rolled to relative safety, bruised, but otherwise still alive, had it not been for Mrs. Badger.  At the very moment that Charles was tumbling downhill, Mrs. Badger, a poorly named and often misunderstood bear, was hanging her laundry to dry.  She had just run her clothesline, a razor thin wire, tightly between two trees.  Two trees that happened to be directly in the path of one tumbling tater tot.

Charles hit the clothesline head on and at high speed.  Unfortunately, it was not fast enough.  Instead of a clean amputation, the clothesline-turned-garrott merely sliced through most of his porcine skull.  He tumbled to a stop and lay on the ground quivering, the top of his skull flapping like the top of a boiling tea kettle.  Mrs Badger was understandably stunned, not only by the sudden arrival and demise of one C. Porker, but by the surprising lack of brain matter under his flapping hood.  She decided to eat him anyway.

Epilogue: Tired of eating slugs and on the verge of starvation, Alexander decided that the only humane thing to do was to end his own life.  Worried about botching the job and ending up in even more misery he decided to consult an internationally renowned assassin to help him.  A lone woman with a red cape known only by her codename: Riding Hood.

TLDR for kids: The people you trust the most are the ones most likely to stone you and roast your corpse over a spit.  Wolves aren’t always evil, pigs aren’t always kind.  Eating red meat is bad for you, but being a mammal made out of delicious bacon is even worse.

Mugs: The Worst Gift Ever

You may be thinking that a mug would be a great gift for me.  Don’t do it.  Don’t even think about it.  I’ll mail it back to you, in tiny little shards, baked into brownies.  I’ll even put “100% Organic fair trade certified double plus good nature USA #1“ on the card, so that when your mouth starts hemorrhaging you’ll wonder if just maybe I forgot to make them gluten free.

Unfortunately, well meaning materialists get me mugs all the time.  I have a wide variety of interests, but for some reason drinking warm liquid is the only thing that comes their mind when shopping for me.  It’s never my love of cats, or prodigious skill at Agricola.  No, it’s the fact that I am a human being, and cannot survive without water.  Real original.

I’m not going to say I have “too many” mugs, because that implies a certain comfort with the situation, like having “too many” pets, or “too many” things to do.  You don’t get rid of the extra animals, just complain about it from time to time.  My situation is much more dire.  I am drowning in mugs.  Victimized by mugs.  Drawn and quartered by mugs.

As an analogy consider this scene: four horses are arranged in a square, each with a different mug on top.  Attached to each horse is a rope, which is attached to one of my limbs.  A bored looking guard says “get on with it” and the horses all race off in different directions, ripping my limbs apart in a spray of viscera.  

This medieval execution crosses my mind every morning when I open my cupboard to see a wall of ceramics.  It’s not because I’m “torn” about which one of the hundred I should use, although that would be an apt analogy.  No, its because I envy the guy getting ripped apart – he doesn’t have to deal with so many stupid mugs.

The Price of Personalization

You might be standing there in the airport gift shop, facing a wall of cheap glassware, thinking “Julian may have ten thousand mugs, but does he have one with his name on it?”  You clever bastard.  Everybody else has gotten me a mug with Tom Hanks’ name on it, but you cracked the code.  A mug with my own name, what a remarkable find.  I will treasure it forever.  

One fatal flaw in your plan: I have at least three dozen mugs with my name on them, and these are the ones that are spelled correctly.  There is a whole other box in the attic of mugs with only slight misspellings.  I classify these as “traceable”, meaning “traceable by the police if I were to throw them at someone”.  The more grievous spelling errors get returned to the sender, by me, through a window.

The real problem with personalized mugs is that everyone knows who they belong too, so I can’t give them away.  I have to throw them out the car window on my way home, and hope that they shatter when they hit the ground.  My greatest mug related fear is that a suspicious adopt-a-highway volunteer shows up at my door one day with a shard of glass that has my name on it.  Then, after pretending to inspect the shard, I have to use it to buy his silence.  Forever.

Not Worth a Thousand Words

After the brilliant idea of getting me a mug with my name on it comes the next one: a mug with my picture.  Yes, modern technology is truly wonderful.  Forget self driving cars, stem cell therapy, or Netflix, we can put pictures of ourselves on cups.  Amazing.

“Does Julian have a mug with his picture on it?” ponders the hopeful gift giver.  How about this for an answer: I’m staring at one right now.  This is not a rhetorical or metaphorical statement, I am literally looking down at my own beautiful face emblazoned on a mug full of green tea.  Yes, despite my disdain for these ceramic oppressors, I am forced to use them on occasion.

And before you ask, it’s a high quality picture, with my whole family in it.  The light is perfect, and nobody’s scowling or blinking.  Your plan to root through your cracked iphone to find a low quality photo of me with my eyes closed is futile.  

And what I mean by “futile” is that I will treasure your thoughtful gift forever.  It will go right under Grandma’s ashes on the mantle.  That’s right, under her ashes, and the 50 pound iron urn I keep them in.  Granny always did love breaking useless crap.

Obviously, since you don’t have any good photos of me, your next gambit is to make a “collage”.  You’re going to put two dozen crappy photos onto the mug and hope that the whole is better than the pieces.  Well here’s a bit of news: that mug will end up in pieces, on the side of the road, after I throw it at your car.

I Can Haz Mug?

And now the optimistic gift giver has reached the bottom of the proverbial mug barrel: mugs with pictures of cats on them.  I’ll admit, cat pictures are a weakness of mine.  Here’s the problem: I don’t care about your cats, only mine.  You don’t have any good pictures of my cats.  Where as I have two drawers filled with hard drives filled with photos of my two beloved felines,  Fluffer and Smother.

Before you upload that blurry out of focus shot of me and Fluffer to Shutterfly, ask yourself this: could Julian have done better?  Does Julian routinely take better pictures of his own cats, every day?  In the event of a disaster, would Julian give CPR to both of his cats before me?  The answer to all of those questions is yes, so don’t even think about it.

A Real Gift Idea

You’re probably wondering, “if I can’t put Julian’s name or a picture on the mug, what should I put on there?”  Nothing.  Don’t put anything on the outside.  Put everything on the inside.  Everything in this case being the greatest gift of all: cash money.

The only mug’s I will accept are those with one or more hundred dollar bills in them.  Not pictures mind you, actual money.  Greenbacks.  Benjamins.  Cold hard cash.  

Upon receiving such mugs the proceeds will be donated to my favorite charity: “Julian’s Booze and Gambling Fund”.  The mugs themselves will be “donated” to adopt-a-highway, through an open window, on my way to the casino.

Quit your job and follow your passion, no matter how stupid it is

Is your job boring?  Are your true skills being wasted on mindless drudgery day after day?  Then you should quit and get rich following your passion, no matter how stupid it is.  

Can you make a living selling custom mouse pads made from old magazines?  Yes.  Rake in millions knitting extra allergic baby sweaters out of old cat hair?  Absolutely.  Create computer games out of recycled paper?  It’s never been done, but yes!  You are a special snowflake, and if you can dream it, you can get rich doing it.  

Hi, I’m Julian Wickers, Minimalism guru and internet celebrity.  I got filthy rich by following my passion, and you can too.  To show you how, I’m going to tell five stories of inspiring individuals who quit the rat race to pursue their ultimate dream, even if it was really, really stupid.  

Jerry Smith, “Now I’m making a real difference”

Jerry, 54, was a high school math teacher, tired of wasting time at a boring 9-5 job.  He felt that teaching, mentoring at risk youth, and being a dad to six foster children was not making a difference in the world.  He quit teaching and community outreach to follow his true passion: making bean bag chairs out of used cat litter.

When I visited Jerry showed me his prototype.  It looked like a giant black trash bag filled with sand.  I declined to sit on the disgusting heap, but Jerry demonstrated the comfort by awkwardly splaying out on the top.  I’ve never seen a many so happy to sit on a bag of shit.  His eyes were clouded by tears of joy, or possibly leakage from the harsh ammonia odor that permeated the entire house.

Because Jerry had the courage to follow his dream he is already making money.  Since his wife divorced him and moved away with the kids he has saved hundreds of dollars on food and electricity.  Most of that is spent buying litter for the twenty cats he adopted, but Jerry knows that each failure is a chance to get back up again.

Nowadays he spends his time in a with a gas mask on, tinkering in a dank basement, knee deep in clumpy old cat litter.  Truly living the dream.  Jerry shows if you believe in yourself, you can do it!

Sammy, “No Experience Necessary”

Sammy, 26, is an aspiring entrepreneur whose heart is bigger than his brain.  He’s never had a job, so he follows his misguided passion: building environmentally friendly medical devices using only common household materials.

His past projects have included bone screws made out of recycled cardboard and a colonoscopy scope made entirely from old rake handles.  Unfortunately, Sammy’s complete lack of medical training, or even a basic understanding of human biology, means that both projects were dangerous failures.

Despite his numerous horrifying setbacks Sammy is not discouraged.  He knows that a lack of medical experience can be overcome by sheer desire to succeed.  The neighborhood pets that “volunteer” for his ghastly experiments might disagree, but none could be reached for comment.  

His newest idea is the boldest yet: a pacemaker made entirely out of old aluminum cans.  When I visited he showed me the device.  It looked like he had just cut open a can and nailed a fitbit to the center.  When I expressed concern he told me that if you can dream it, you can do it.  He’s right.  The first clinical trial is next week, on his neighbor’s Golden Retriever.           

Tristan, “Those Meddling Kids”

Tristan quit his job as the CEO of a high powered investment banking firm to follow his true passion: building furniture out of bundles of cash  When I visited he showed me a recliner made out of 10 dollar bills, an ottoman “ironically” made out of 2 dollar bills, and a sectional made out of 20’s.  He shuddered when I asked about one dollar bills, and claims he never touches the stuff.

Tristan may seem successful already, but he isn’t done dreaming: his eventual goal is to build an entire guest house using only bundles of cash as bricks.  The important thing, I told him, is to never give up.  He laughed and said that is good advice for everyone, except for the SEC, who should “give up” their investigation into his finances.   When asked about how to buy his furniture sculptures he said they were not for sale, although he did offer to plunder my retirement savings for a small fee.

Samantha, “Excitement is in my DNA”

Samantha was tired of her job as a mountaineering guide and base jumping instructor in Nepal.  She felt that leading expeditions up Himalayan peaks and jumping off of cliffs with a parachute was too boring.  She quit to to pursue her “truly exciting” passion: blogging about marbles.

According to Samantha marbles are so intriguing because “there are so many different sizes and colors”.  She has since moved back to her parents basement where she spends her days typing 500 word “articles” about the wondrous world of marbles.  Her latest pieces include “Cool Marble Colors #45: Yellowish Green” and “Getting Marbles Through Airport Security”.  

Instead of jumping off mountains, Samantha’s adrenaline rush comes from arguing about money with her parents and lying to billing companies on the phone.  Money is tight, but the important thing is that she believes in herself.  Never let go of your dreams, especially if they would roll all over the floor and make a mess.

Mandy & Michael, “We are Starving”

Mandy and Michael liked organic food so much that they quit their jobs at a high profile marketing firm to follow their true passion: farming.  Despite not having any experience even gardening, and killing every houseplant and pet they’ve ever owned out of neglect, they blindly took the plunge.  Luckily they believe in themselves 100%, which is the most important thing.

The enterprising couple left the big city and moved to the small town of Lake Woebehere Minnesota, where they put their entire life savings into a small plot of rocky land.  When I visited they were both out in the field, arguing vigorously while Michael tried to till the soil with a plastic rake.  It was late November, and the ground was frozen, so he wasn’t having much luck.  

They saw the groceries I had brought and rushed over to eat, probably for the first time in days.   Their once proud Calvin Klein overalls were torn and caked with mud.  The loaf of bread was gone in an instant.  The eggs were cracked open and slurped right out of the shell.  Even the raw potatoes were ripped apart and eaten in their feeding frenzy.

I took their zeal to consume raw eggs was a sign of something greater: a hunger to succeed.  To truly follow your passion you must be driven, and in Mandy and Michael I saw that hunger.  I told them to never give up, and that winter was coming.